In the Bible, an ephod is a garment worn by people who are holy. It is made of two pieces of cloth, which are joined together at the shoulders and fall to the waist. The ephod also has two shoulder straps attached to it so that it can be worn over the shoulders like a sash.
The ephod was worn by priests and their wives during times when they were worshipping God in the temple. It was made with gold threads woven into linen fabric, and had pomegranates on its hem (Exodus 28:6). The pomegranates symbolized fertility, which was important because priests were supposed to be able to have children (Exodus 19:5).
It also had girdles attached to it that went around each armhole of the ephod. These girdles were decorated with bells (Exodus 28:33-35). The bells would make noise when they moved around while going through their daily tasks. This would remind people that they were worshipping God so they wouldn’t forget!
Have you ever come across the term “ephod” in the Bible and wondered what it means? In this article, we will explore the concept of an ephod in the Bible and delve into its various aspects. Whether you are a biblical scholar or simply curious about the biblical references, we will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the ephod. From its spiritual meaning to its purpose and usage in different biblical instances, we will explore every facet of what an ephod is. So let us begin our journey to uncover the mysteries of the ephod in the Bible.
What Is an Ephod?
An ephod is a sacred vestment or garment mentioned in the Bible. It holds significant religious and symbolic meaning in the context of Judaism and the Old Testament. Throughout various biblical stories, the ephod is prominently featured as a crucial article of clothing worn by high priests and spiritual leaders. This article will delve deeper into the meaning and significance of the ephod, its materials and design, as well as its role in biblical narratives.
The ephod holds significant importance in the Bible, serving as a symbol of God’s anointing, authority, and communication with His chosen people. It played a crucial role in religious ceremonies and decision-making processes. While its exact appearance may remain a mystery, the spiritual meaning and purpose of the ephod are clear. Whether consulting God for guidance, interceding as a priest, or seeking favor, the ephod held a central position in the lives of the biblical characters and in the relationship between God and His people.
What Is an Ephod in the Bible?
The simplest explanation of an ephod is given to us in Exodus 28:6-8.
“And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and of fine twined linen, skillfully worked. It shall have two shoulder pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together. And the skillfully woven band on it shall be made like it and be of one piece with it, of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen.”
Even though we have such detail, there is still some debate about the actual appearance of the ephod. Some believe it was more like an apron which would cover the chest to the heel, other believe it would have been more like a skirt enveloping the body from the waist down but attached to the breastplate, and yet others view it as more like a jacket with the middle exposed to insert the breastplate.
It should be noted that this was not part of the attire for every individual priest, but was unique to the high priest, or at least this was the case early on. Scripture says that Samuel wore a linen ephod (1 Samuel 2:18) and David also wore one (2 Samuel 6:14).
For the Aaronic priesthood, the ephod was given elaborate detail. This attention to detail and its costly production is an indication that this was one of the most important items among the priestly garments. It was also attached to the breastplate which contained the Urim and Thummim. This made the ephod part of seeking divine counsel. We see this use in 1 Samuel 23 and 30, when David asked for the ephod to “inquire of the Lord.”
This could explain why ephod seems to have a different mean
Picture of an Ephod in the Bible
Although the Bible does not provide a specific image of what an ephod looked like, it is described as a garment or vest that was worn by priests and certain individuals in ancient Israel. It was typically made of fine linen and adorned with various precious stones, such as onyx, jasper, and sapphire. The ephod consisted of two parts: a breastpiece and a shoulder piece. The breastpiece contained twelve gemstones representing the twelve tribes of Israel, while the shoulder pieces were fastened with two onyx stones engraved with the names of the twelve tribes.
“And the skillfully woven band on it shall be made like it and be of the same piece with it, of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen.” - Exodus 28:28 (ESV)
Ephod Spiritual Meaning
The ephod holds significant spiritual symbolism in the Bible. It represents the divine authority and anointing of God upon the chosen individuals who wore it. It served as a symbol of the priestly office and was worn by high priests during religious ceremonies and rituals. The ephod signified the intimate relationship between God and His chosen people and highlighted their role as intermediaries between God and the community.
“It shall be on Aaron when he ministers, and its sound shall be heard when he goes into the Holy Place before the Lord, and when he comes out, so that he does not die.” – Exodus 28:35 (ESV)
The pronunciation of “ephod” varies depending on different regions and languages. In English, it is commonly pronounced as “EE-fod.” However, the original Hebrew pronunciation might have had slight variations. Regardless of the pronunciation, the significance of the ephod remains consistent throughout biblical references.
What Was the Purpose of the Ephod?
Ephod Definition and Picture
The ephod had a central role in various religious activities and rituals in ancient Israel. Its purpose was multifaceted:
- 1. Identification: The ephod served as a distinctive garment worn by priests, distinguishing them from the rest of the community. It marked their sacred status and their role in serving God.
- 2. Communication: One of the primary functions of the ephod was to enable communication between God and the people. Through the ephod, priests could seek divine guidance and receive God’s answers or decisions.
- 3. Divination: The ephod also played a role in divination, where it was used to make decisions or seek answers from God. The high priest would consult the ephod, which contained the Urim and Thummim, to receive insights or divine favor.
“He put on the breastpiece, and since in the breastpiece was the Urim and Thummim, he bore the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly.” – Exodus 28:30 (ESV)
What Was the Ephod Used for in the Bible?
The ephod had several specific uses throughout the Bible:
- 1. Consultation of God’s Will: In important matters, such as warfare or decision-making, the ephod was used to inquire of God and receive His guidance.
- 2. Intercession and Worship: The ephod was an integral part of the high priest’s attire during offerings and worship in the tabernacle. It represented the priest’s role in interceding for the people and approaching God on their behalf.
- 3. Leadership and Judgment: The ephod was used as a symbol of authority and leadership. It played a crucial role in determining the will of God and providing directions to the people.
“So Saul inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets.” – 1 Samuel 28:6 (ESV)
What Is an Ephod in 1 Samuel 30?
In the book of 1 Samuel, chapter 30, an ephod is mentioned in the context of seeking guidance from God. When David and his men returned to their city, Ziklag, they found it burned and their families taken captive by the Amalekites. Feeling distressed, David turned to God and sought His guidance through the ephod. By consulting the ephod, David received assurance about pursuing the Amalekites to rescue their families and belongings.
“David inquired of the Lord, ‘Shall I pursue after this band? Shall I overtake them?’ He answered him, ‘Pursue, for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue.'” – 1 Samuel 30:8 (ESV)
What Is an Ephod in the Bible: Gideon?
In the book of Judges, Gideon, one of the judges of Israel, had an ephod made from the spoils of war. After defeating the Midianites, Gideon took the golden earrings from his plunder and made an ephod, which became a snare for him and his family. The ephod became an object of idolatry, as the Israelites began to worship it instead of God.
“And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family.” – Judges 8:27 (ESV)
What Does the Ephod Symbolize in the Bible?
In Judges 8:27 we read that Gideon “made an ephod of [gold thrown in the fire] and put it in the city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.” That doesn’t sound as if an ephod is an article of clothing, does it? Something similar happens in Judges 17 when Micah makes an ephod out of silver as well as household idols and ordained his sons as priests.
Many will say that there are two different meanings of ephod in the Bible. I understand why this is said – it certainly appears this way. But I would contend that there is only one meaning of an ephod in the Scriptures, but the idolatrous version is a distortion of the real intention of an ephod. If you understand what the ephod was to symbolize then you can understand the distortion.
Why was such detail given to the ephod? Why give such intricate details of the clothes of the priest? Does God really care so much about what the priest is wearing? Consider that a priest functions as the mediator between God and humanity. All of these ornaments are meant to display both the majesty of God and the impossibility of humanity coming back to our Creator without a mediator. Our sin has separated us from God. But God has graciously provided the means for us to continue to be connected.
What role does an ephod play in this? The ephod was part of this mediating process. And its connection to the Urim and Thummim tells us that it was specifically part of the communication with God. This is why we see David asking for the ephod when he wanted information. And I believe it’s also why we see Gideon and Micah setting up an “ephod.” Yes, at that stage they are not attempting to recreate a clothing item, but they are attempting to establish a connection to God (or the gods).
Therefore, I would argue that there are not two ephods in the Bible but one. There is the God-prescribed means of access (to which an ephod plays a part) and there is the way in which humanity attempts to wrest control of communication with the divine. This also helps us begin to understand not only the significance of an ephod, but also why we no longer use one.
Why Is the Ephod So Significant?
In the Garden of Eden, our first couple communicated freely with God. However, our communication with both God and each other has been fractured from the moment they partook of the forbidden fruit. Actually, we can trace our break in communication to the moment when humanity listened to the serpent talk. Paul Tripp is helpful here:
“Words that challenge God’s authority, lies, false interpretations of life, accusations and blame against God and man all have their origin in this dramatic moment of change. Satan speaks, and as Adam and Eve act upon his words, the world of talk becomes a world of trouble. No longer do we simply reflect the image of God with our words; we also reflect the image of the Serpent. No longer do we consistently speak up to God’s standard; we often speak down to the Serpent’s. No longer are our words a faithful picture of God’s design; too often they picture Satan’s deceit. Talk is no longer easy or safe. Instead, we live in a world where lies manipulate, angry words wound, falsehood destroys, slander harms, condemnation tears down, and disrespectful words challenge the authorities God has set in place” (Tripp, 25).
Our talk is broken. But so is our listening. The communication lines between God and humanity were broken. But God graciously put things into place by which He would continue to communicate with humanity. One of these was the ephod. Even its symbolism spoke to the people—it spoke of not only our sin but also God’s desire to continue communing with humanity. It had within it a symbol of both mercy and judgment.
It is not shocking, then, that a means by which God would use to communicate with humanity would be distorted by sinful humans once again. This is what happened with Gideon, Micah, and every human since the fall. We would rather communicate with God on our terms rather than His terms. We want to control divine speech. This is the way of the flesh.
Thankfully, the ephod was only a pointer. It would not be the only way which God had planned to communicate with humanity. Ultimately, he would communicate to us through His Son. And in the person and work of Jesus Christ our communication with God would be restored. This is why we do not continue to use things like an ephod (or cast lots). God has decisively communicated to us through His Son.
An ephod is still a pointer to Jesus. It symbolizes the broken status of our communication with God, it shows God’s desire to continue to communicate with humanity, but ultimately shows that it is but a shadow. It points to the greater communication that was to come in Christ. Jesus now serves as an immovable door stop into the throne room of God. We have an audience with the Father because of the finished work of Jesus. We do not need an ephod because of Jesus. This is great news. God speaks through Jesus even still today.
What does the term “ephod” mean in the Bible?
The term “ephod” is derived from the Hebrew word “אֵפוֹד,” which means “garment” or “vest.” According to biblical accounts, the ephod is a unique and ornate vestment that incorporates both religious and symbolic elements. It serves as a distinguishing mark of authority and a connection between God and the chosen individuals. The ephod is primarily associated with the tabernacle and the priesthood, representing a garment of higher spiritual significance.
What are the materials and design of the ephod?
The biblical description of the ephod includes specific details about its materials and design, emphasizing its sacred nature. According to Exodus 28:6-14, the ephod is crafted from fine linen and embroidered with gold, blue, purple, and scarlet threads. It consists of two shoulder pieces that join at the front with a decorative breastpiece, forming a sleeveless tunic-like garment. The shoulder pieces are fastened with golden clasps, and the breastpiece is adorned with twelve precious gemstones, each engraved with the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel.
What is the role of the ephod in biblical narratives?
The ephod serves several essential functions in biblical narratives, both as a religious and divinatory tool. In Exodus 28:30, it is mentioned that the ephod bears the Urim and Thummim, two sacred objects that were used to seek divine guidance and make important decisions. The ephod is worn by the high priest, enabling him to communicate with God and intercede on behalf of the people. In Judges 8:27, Gideon creates an ephod, which unfortunately leads to idolatry. In the story of David, the ephod becomes a symbol of his close relationship with God and his ability to seek divine guidance.
What is the spiritual significance of the ephod?
The ephod holds significant spiritual symbolism in the Bible. It represents the high priest’s authority and his role as an intermediary between God and the people. The ephod serves as a visible reminder of the chosen ones’ sacred duty and their responsibility to seek divine guidance. It signifies their connection to the divine realm and their ability to access God’s wisdom and favor. The Urim and Thummim contained in the ephod were used as a method of divination, providing answers to important inquiries or dilemmas faced by the people.
How does the ephod relate to the priesthood?
The ephod plays a critical role in the Levitical priesthood, distinguishing the consecrated priests from the rest of the people. Only the high priest, appointed by God, is allowed to wear the ephod as a mark of his position and authority. The ephod acts as a symbol of the priest’s divine appointment and his responsibility to represent the people before God. It is inextricably linked to the sacrificial rituals and acts as a vehicle for communication between the priest and God.
Are there any historical or cultural references to the ephod?
The use of the ephod is not limited to the biblical context but is also found in other ancient Near Eastern cultures. Historically, the ephod was a garment worn by diviners and priests in various religious traditions. In some cultures, it was associated with oracles and employed for divination purposes, similar to its use in the Old Testament. These cultural references highlight the widespread belief in the ephod’s spiritual power and the role it played in connecting humans with the divine realm.
How does the ephod relate to the story of David in the Bible?
In the story of David, the ephod holds significant symbolic value. When David flees from King Saul and seeks refuge in the land of the Philistines, he is appointed as a commander. However, the Philistine lords grow suspicious of David and his loyalty. Seeking guidance from God, David inquires through the high priest Abiathar using the ephod. This demonstrates the ephod’s association with seeking divine counsel and its role in determining God’s will. David’s close relationship with God and his ability to seek guidance through the ephod reinforce his favored position as a chosen king.
What lessons can be learned from the ephod in the Bible?
The ephod teaches lessons about the importance of seeking divine guidance, the significance of spiritual rituals, and the responsibility of those chosen by God to act as intermediaries. It emphasizes the connection between humanity and the divine and underscores the need for humility and obedience in fulfilling God’s will. The ephod also warns against the dangers of idolatry and the misuse of spiritual symbols and objects for personal gain or worshiping false gods.
Why is the ephod not a prominent feature in modern religious practices?
The ephod, along with many other sacred objects and practices from the Old Testament, is not a prominent feature in modern religious practices. This is mainly because of the shift from the Old Testament priesthood to the priesthood of Jesus Christ in Christianity.
The sacrifice of Jesus and the establishment of the New Covenant have rendered the ceremonial practices and vestments of the Old Testament obsolete. However, the symbolism and spiritual principles associated with the ephod can still be considered and applied in different ways within contemporary religious contexts.
Overall, the ephod remains a significant symbol of divine authority, spiritual guidance, and the role of chosen individuals in connecting with God. Its presence in biblical narratives sheds light on the intricate relationship between humanity and the divine and offers valuable lessons for believers today.